It was well over a year between the very first PSA (Professional Squash Association) Tour victory that Sudbury native Mike McCue would register and his second one, just a few weeks ago, in Sante Fe, New Mexico. But that did not stop the graduate of Lockerby Composite to draw upon some interesting comparables between the two tournaments.
“I think the biggest similarity between both PSA events that I have won is that I had my most challenging matches earlier in the tournament,” said McCue, following up his most recent win with a strong showing in Virginia and surviving the trials in Toronto last week to earn the second berth of his career on the Canadian entry that will compete at the World Team Squash Championships (December 2019 in Washington, D.C.).
“In this most recent one, I was down 2-1 in the first round, and that’s a bit unexpected as the #1 seed. The altitude conditions in Sante Fe were brutally difficult – it’s like 7000 feet of altitude.” Which is also a tad ironic, since McCue’s inaugural tour triumph came in Calgary, about 3000 feet above sea level.
“The altitude just changes the way the game is played so much,” added McCue. “I think he finally got a little tired himself and I was able to, almost out of nowhere, turn the match around.”
“I think in some ways, it almost relaxes you for the rest of the event, if you’ve already had to deal with the possibility of losing in the first round and you surprisingly come through that,” said McCue. “You can only play better from there – you have a new lease on life.”
The positive start to the 2019-2020 comes after a disapointing end to the 18-19 campaign, with McCue not selected for the Pan American Games, a lineup he seemed certain to crack for the majority of months leading into the selection process.
A late season swoon and the subsequent snub might ultimately pay dividends, in a somewhat more unexpected fashion however. "I think it did help me try some more experimental training ideas off the court, on the court," said McCue.
"You've gotten yourself to a certain point and then clearly stagnated, at least results wise, so you have to try and do something a little differently. Maybe there is something that actually benefitted my squash game more than some of the previous training I had done."
If nothing else, simply being around the circuit for another year cannot hurt the 90th ranked player in the world. "I'm usually one of the more experienced guys in the mid to smaller tournaments now," McCue suggested.
"Just finding a way to get eleven points three times before your opponent is a bit of a skill that you can only develop from playing a ton of matches over the years."
And it's a skill that he hopes will help he and the Canadian team of Nick Sachvie (defending national champion), David Baillargeon and Shawn Delierre move up a notch or two from their 13th place finish in France in 2017.
"You've got to cherish the opportunity to represent your country at the very highest level, and the Men's World Team Championships is kind of the pinnacle of world squash, along with the individual championships," said McCue.
"Having played my first couple of matches in France a couple of years ago and having been crippingly nervous, especially in my first few matches, well, hopefully I've worked through that."
"The stretch goal, for our team, is to finish top eight, which would be huge as far as Squash Canada funding, but that will be difficult," McCue explained. "I think a very reasonable goal would be to finish in the top 12 after three consecutive cycles outside of that group."
McCue still has four more PSA tour events to attend prior to Worlds, and then a bit of a lull before picking things up again in February or so, in the months leading into the 2020 nationals.